While the Putnam Valley Central School District’s overall spending plan is higher than the past several years, district residents can expect only a slight increase on their school tax bill this year pending budget approval by voters next month.
According to school officials, Putnam Valley is increasing the tax levy by .84 percent or $300,857, which remains well under the New York State mandated tax cap. The budget is totaled at $48.5 million.
The district is adding teaching positions at the high school and middle school to reduce class size, including the equivalent of 2.4 teachers at the high school and the equivalent of three teachers at the middle schools. The district is also hiring a director of learning and innovative educational opportunities.
“We are replacing a number of retirees, which also provides the funding that allows us to (add new positions),” Superintendent Dr. Fran Wills said, noting 16 people are retiring at the end of the year. “Those are savings that you are able to utilize to continue to improve your program.”
While the district will grapple with an eight percent increase in health premiums, New York State took on more local schools’ pension payments to balance the two expenditures out, Wills said.
The past two years the Putnam Valley district actually lowered the tax levy and is only one of 12 New York school districts to accomplish that, district treasurer Jill Figarella said.
The district will also offer voters a referendum on an energy performance project Putnam Valley plans to go ahead with.
The energy performance contract would allow the district to upgrade the school grounds with more environmentally efficient equipment that would also guarantee energy savings, district officials said.
The contract is already in place and project will go forward, Wills said, but if voters approve the proposition there would be a 10 percent additional aid incentive resulting in $600,000 for the district from the state.
The project includes a solar panel at the high school, middle school and a bus garage, new windows in part of the elementary school, LED lighting throughout the district, and a geothermal heating system at the elementary school. (The middle school and high school already have that heating system.)
District officials contend the energy performance initiative would generate $384,000 in annual savings, paying for the project’s costs over a 15-year span.
“It allows us to create sustainable energy installation in the district,” Wills said. “… it’s a major factor going forward in terms of our district’s economic future.”
Figarella said funding from New York State is higher than last year, though she said the numbers given by the state are only estimates.
“We’re satisfied as far as them returning part of the foundation aid they promised,” Figarella said.
But the district is concerned about possible federal cuts facing Putnam Valley. School systems get block grants for special education from the federal government and rely on that money to fund part of those programs. Wills said possible federal cutbacks could have a major impact across the country.
“We will be pressed if that (money) doesn’t come through,” Wills said. “That’s a problem.”